Father’s day is always an interesting day for me because it’s full of a lot of emotions. The father who raised me is not my biological father, and although I feel as if he tried his best with me, I think there was a lot of room for improvement in how our relationship evolved. I found out about my biological father when I was 16 years old and that threw me for a loop. I had always sensed that something wasn’t as normal as I was made to believe it was, but having this confirmed shook me off my foundations and made me search for who I really was. Should this have made a difference? No, I don’t think it should and I think in a lot of ways finding out the truth made me search deeper for the true meaning of what marriage and parenting was really supposed to be like.
I know my mom tried her best with me. I know that she kept the truth from me out of love for me and out of wanting me to have a normal family life, but I think that this information should not have been kept from me. I think that finding out the truth was more hurtful to my self-esteem then had I just been told this from the very beginning. I idolized the man who was my biological father, even though I had been told that he had, for all intents and purposes, abandoned me and my mother.
The issue of parenting is a very complex thing because as I am currently a custodial stepmother, I understand that there are many different circumstances that lead to one of the parents not being a part of their child’s life, whether it’s because of choice, out of infidelity and loyalty to another, out of extreme circumstances where the state takes your children away for one reason or another, whatever the case may be. I have witnessed first hand the struggles that a woman faces when raising children on her own as my mother and adoptive father divorced when I was 15, to watching my boyfriend raise his son on his own before we all moved in together and became a family, and I have to say that women have it so much harder. It’s harder for a woman to find a descent job to support her family than it is for a man. It’s hard to find that balance of work/family life when you’re a single parent, and it’s no wonder that single parents, women in particular, are usually part of the lower classes or lower middle classes.
My mother put on a good front. She raised us as a middle class family with low class funds. Somehow my mother found a way to always make ends meet, probably with the help of my grandfather who always has been a big part of my life until his death close to 3 years ago. I never went without but I did learn early on the value of a dollar and started working the moment I was old enough to work. This was her struggle throughout my entire childhood.
Why do I make this sound as if my mother had always been a single parent? My father worked hard all the time. When he first married my mother he was still in college and worked full-time as well, so we hardly saw him. Then after he graduated, he helped his father with the family business and that drained him of all the time he had as well. The weekends were his time to relax and rightfully so, but we spent most of our days with my mother. She’s the one who drove us to school, drove us to ballet, Boy Scout meetings, softball/baseball practices, cheerleading practices, birthday parties, and every other activity that me and my brothers were a part of. My dad participated when he could but he normally couldn’t.
This is another problem that I feel is plaguing our society. I would call him an absentee father, but not completely as he was there some of the time but not most of the time like I would have liked him to be. This seems to be a problem with some of the lower classes where both parents are together, especially during a recession like the one this country is going through now because the fathers seem to be working harder to make ends meet, as are the mothers, but the mothers always seem to make time for their children. Is this because of the gender stereotypes plaguing our societies? Is this what “the other side” claims as being the reason why women don’t make more money in the workforce than they should and is this their justification for things being the way they are? These are all random questions that pop in my head from time to time when I consider my history and the current state of our societies and women.
I believe in equality. I believe that a man and a woman should be equal participants in their child’s life. I’m not saying that this is the only way it should be because this would be an ignorant statement as there are many other factors to take into consideration. What I am saying is that if a couple is together and they have a great relationship, and both parties work, then they should both find a way to equally be a part of their child’s life.
In a separate but equal issue, I was reading CNN’s latest on Obama’s speech at the Apostolic Church of God where he addresses the black fathers who have not been a part of their child’s life and tells them basically that they need to take responsibility for their children. His father apparently left when he was 2 years old, and I know at that age it has to be incredibly rough to know your father, idolize your father, and then have him leave your life, so I’m sure he’s speaking from the heart when he makes these statements. I know from experience that not having a father be a big part of your life can lead to a lot of emotional problems, especially when it comes to your self-esteem and self worth, and I don’t mean this in the sense of say like to lesbian couples raising a child. I mean this in the sense of having a father in your life and he’s either an absentee like my father was or just flat out abandons you. This can go either way though because I see the same issues I had in my stepson because of how little his mother is in his life. If there is a child/parent relationship that has already been established, having that changed or allowing other problems to interfere so the relationship can not evolve into a truly substantive relationship can cause a lot of psychological damage to the child. Even a divorce is a hard thing for a child to cope with, but if you still take an active role in the life of your child, that trauma can be lessened and the relationship can still evolve.
I’m sure there are many different situations that I’m leaving out but I’m hoping that by this little article that I’m writing, I would hope that it has made some people at least consider the relationship they have with their child and if they can, make a little extra effort to nourish their relationship with their child to ensure themselves that their child will be healthy, happy, and sane.